Ascomycota

This group is known because of the ascocarps (fruiting bodies) which contain asci, and each ascus (sporangium) containing eight ascospores (sexual spores). Only a few genera are capable of infecting insects; however, the genus, Cordyceps, contains more than 300 entomopathogenic species. As mentioned above, historically this was the first described entomopathogen, due to its size, which may be as large as 30 cm in length or more. Another well known asco-mycete is Ascosphaera, a pathogen of honeybees. As mentioned above, based on molecular information (mostly on the sequencing of rDNA), the old phylum Deuteromycota, containing only anamorphs (asexual phase), is now part of the ascomycetes, even if no teleomophic (sexual) phases are known. That makes ascomycetes the most diverse and most developed group of fungi used as

Figure 8.8 The white muscardine, Beauveria bassiana, growing on a mummified cadaver of a Leptinotarsa texana adult beetle. Highly sclerotized cuticle structures such as elytra and pronotum are important barriers for the fungus to grow through.

biological control agents against a wide variety of pests. This group, still known as Hyphomycetes, contains more than 40 entomopathogenic genera, including the widely used Beauveria, Metarhizium, Paecilomyces, Nomuraea, Hirsutella, Lecanicillium (formerly Verticillium), and Culicinomyces, among many others. Their conidia (asexual spores) are the main component of a great variety of bioinsecticides, most of them cultured on organic wastes or byproducts, such as bran or low quality grains. Since the classification of Hyphomycetes was artificial, it will slowly fade, as the molecular tools will identify their teleomorphic counterparts, if they exist. In fact, the white muscardine, Beauveria bassiana (see Figure 8.8) is now more frequently found in the literature as Cordyceps bassiana.103

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